Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Technical Recruiters that bad?

I was reading through this thread:

I had a 9 month contract at Real Networks in Seattle.  I was contacted through my resume posting at by a company called Volt.  The person who contacted me from Volt asked me a few questions over the phone, then asked me to send them my resume in MSWord format (as opposed to the HTML one provides).

The next day, I got a call from Volt again, and they scheduled an interview for the next week.  The people at Real were impressed with the code samples I brought (and I guess the fact that I brought SOMETHING impressed them as well), and they also recognized my name from some open-source work I had one.  They thanked me for my time and sent me on my way.

Less than a week later, I was again contacted by Volt with a job offer of $25.00 an hour.  That sounded great to me, as my previous programmer position was paying $12.00 per hour (I knew it was a low wage when I took it, but it was close to home and I needed some experience on my resume).

I accepted the position and they told me I could start the beginning of the next week.

The next day, I again got a call from Volt, and the lady told me that they had negotiated a higher salary and that I would actually be getting $30/hr.  She also told me not to come in Monday, but to delay till Tuesday so they could get my computer set up and whatnot.

Anyway, about 7 months in, the lead developer quit (he was actually an employee of Real Networks and not a contractor).  I of course inherited all his work, so I was doing more than what I was originally hired to do.  I talked to my Volt representative at Real Networks (actually an employee of Volt with an office at RN).  I told him what was going on, and the next day, I got a raise to $35/hr.

During this time, I was offered a full time position, but I didn't take it because the pay was significantly less.  After 9 months of working there, the division I was in was shut down.  I got notice of my end date, and started looking around for another job.

About two weeks before my end date, I was approached by the Volt representative who got me a job interview for a permanent position inside Real Networks.  By then, I had already accepted another offer, but facts remain:

I was very happy with my experience at Volt.  Everyone I talked to was very professional and seemed willing to help me.  I have an open invitation to come back any time I need work.

Also during that time, I helped interview candidates for my replacement (after I was moved up to "lead").  We got candidates from quite a few recruiting agencies.  Most of them looked really good on paper but didn't have it where it counted.  However, the guy we ended up hiring worked out very well.

I guess I just wanted to show the flip side of the coin.  I didn't feel cheated or anything like that.  Sure, they take a large percentage of what Real was actually paying, but in exchange, I got a regular paycheck, raises, medical insurance, 401k, and they spent time trying to place me after the contract was over.

If I ever leave my current job, I will not hesitate to work with them again.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


Yet another advert??

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Apologies for the post above. Reading 'testimonials' on the web has made me very cynical.

Maybe Joel should have a BigUp board where people can wax lyrical about their great experiences.

Actually skip that thought... a wee while ago I was complaining about all the whinging posts on this thread.

Need to think this one through! :-)

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I don't know about where he lives but 30 or 35 dollars an hour doesn't sound good to me.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

saberworks, you're the type of sucker that keeps recruiters rich.

You got an extra $5 per hour after your promotion? I bet the recruiter got an extra $20 per hour.

You got a job? But you would have got that anyway. What did the recruiter do that benefited you, that would not have occurred if there was no recruiter?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I've had good experience with a few recruiters. 

Dan Brown
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Finding a good technical recruiter is as hard as finding a good programmer.

Bill Rushmore
Thursday, March 11, 2004

What can you do about it...  It's very hard to get them out of the picture.  And, many consulting companies operate just like recruiters - they're just body shops - you get the job and all they have to do is bill the client and cut you a check.

What's your solution?

Thursday, March 11, 2004

As the originator of "technical recruiters are scum" thread, i feel inclined to comment.

Obviously, recruiters DO place candidates (because enough of us have expressed our discontent with being "lead on" only to find out a "candidate has already been selected"). I don't doubt your positive experience best rest assured there were at least a dozen others who were falsely lead on and got, basically, reemed when striking for this same position. .

But realize this; the going rate for technical recruiting is, at least, "**30% OF YOUR ANNUAL SALARY." That is one helluva sales commission . . . and for what? Technical recruiters amount to NOTHING more than a human acronym filter. You see, what they have is a list of terms that matchup with acronyms. For example, if you list MFC on your resume ... you obviously must know what "CObject" is responsible for ... if you list C# (w/ OOP), you surely must know the difference between "abstract" and "virtual." Most technical recruiters are failed technicians themselves. Most do not have college degrees. Most are cons.

Listen: We must work to AVOID technical recruiters. All of us will be in an increased technical capacity position and/or managers in the next decade ... once we reach those stages the honus is on us to force our opinion of the ineptitude of technical recruiters. The scum will be scraped off and they can back to selling used cars and we can get back to hiring quality candidates.

I do review candidates and do personal phone interviews to filter through them. This only takes a few hours/week to this process and, low-and-behold, I save my company 10s of thousands of dollars and obtain highly qualified individuals.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

If you seek clients solo (like me) don't forget the significant marketing costs (mailings, phone calls) which really add up.  I am not saying that recruiter fees are completely justified, but they do save you marketing expenses.  If the employment picture was better, you could avoid marketing and just respond to newspaper want ads; those days are over and not coming back, imo.

Joe Hendricks
Thursday, March 11, 2004

"Finding a good technical recruiter is as hard as finding a good programmer"

This is true.  90% of everything is crap; that does not mean that the individual thing is nessecarily bad.

I do agree that, in general, recruiters are over-compensated for the value they add.  In general, technology recruiting is in serious need of disintermediation. (Take the middle man out of the picture.)

Then again, this economic cycle has hit recruiters hard.  Sure, they still get 30% of your annual salary, but that ain't so much big bucks when they only place one personal quarter ...

Matt H.
Thursday, March 11, 2004

My introduction to pay issues was at one very large
company i was getting $X/hr. It turns out
they were billing me at 5 times X. That
was an education. It matters because if
your are dim star and they are epecting
a super star then they won't be happy.

son of parnas
Thursday, March 11, 2004

My company almost exclusively uses a consultanting company to hire people. It usually goes: Hire someone on a 6 month contract, if they are a good fit for the company, they get hired. If they don't work out, our company doesn't have to "fire" them. They just end the relationship.

I went through that process and I'm almost at 2 years with my present employer.

I'm not sure that is how I'd run my own company, but I never felt like I was getting the short end of the stick. The consultanting company's people were always nice and professional. No complaints here!

michael sica (
Thursday, March 11, 2004

"Everyone I talked to was very professional and seemed willing to help me.  I have an open invitation to come back any time I need work."

saberworks, you are to Volt what a high roller is to a casino. You will always be treated with respect by almost every company that can make a huge profit off of you.

"I told him what was going on, and the next day, I got a raise to $35/hr."

And how much more money did the staffing firm get? The problem is you don't know.

"I got a regular paycheck, raises, medical insurance, 401k, and they spent time trying to place me after the contract was over."

No doubt $30 an hour is better than $12. Medical insurance is always nice to have. The only benefit of the 401K is that the money you put in isn't taxed. I am sure that Volt didn't contribute a dime to this retirement account. Staffing companies will always try and place their most profitable commodities.

The deal that you got with Volt sounds pretty good when you take into consideration where you came from. My guess is that you might not feel the same way about such deals several years down the road when you have extensive work experience under your belt.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

So, people are getting $12 and $30 /hr to do contract programming in SEATTLE?

Let's start that 'help me find a new career' thread again.

You can't even live in a cardboard box in Seattle for $12/hr as a contractor - that's the same as $6/hr as an employee. For $30/$15 you can at least live at the shelter and pay bus fare to get to work.

Mortgage payments on a modest house anywhere near Seattle run $2500-$4500/mo.

Where do people live?

Tony Chang
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Really.  Might as well work at starbucks.  At least you'd get benefits.

not Elephant
Thursday, March 11, 2004

My intuition is that the original poster of this thread is sincere - that he actually did have a reasonable experience subcontracting to Volt.

A little perspective:

First of all, if 'most' contractors or fulltime employment candidates had the sales and self marketing ability to land new work consistently, then there would be little market for recruiters. The fact that they exist, even with their sliminess, informs us that they do fill a role in the job ecosystem.

All the talk about the guy getting $35/hour, "hahahhah what did your agency get, huh huhuh huh?" is a red herring. It neglects the important point that the agency found the work and the worker did not.

Bottom line: if you want to control your career and you want to be considered a good value 'and' valuable to clients or employers, then become your own recruiter - find your own work. Otherwise, given the desperation of most clueless job seekers, expect to be shopped out by agencies and to work for cheap compared to the billing rate.

Secondly, I posted in the other recruiter thread that brokers and headhunters are basically "outsourced HR". Think about it. They are the gatekeepers. They are the ones acting like it would be a cardinal sin to submit a well qualified person who lacks a buzzword. They are the bad guys in the view of both candidates and companies. So, this leads me to suspect that companies use recruiters in order to distance themselves from the "bad karma" and bad feelings generated by frustrated job seekers. The recruiter can use many ways to appear to drop the ball so that a candidate is simply never considered, while the client actually has their own prejudice or unfair policy that is blocking the candidate. So, blame is redirected to a party that "everyone" knows is blameworthy.

The point of all this is, blaming just the recruiters is naive. I pointed out in the other thread too that the technology industry has its own head trips that are apart from the normal arrogance of recruiters. Some (many?) techies placed in a recruiting or interviewing role tend to be insufferably elitist arrogant weenies and to let it be known continually that they are chosen of God. And companies are the recruiter's clients - companies have a choice, if only they would exercize it. Which I believe that they do.

Recruiters "serve" companies, period.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Bored, you don't understand. Recruiters do not create jobs, and they do not find jobs.

What they do is gain control of the jobs, so people like us can't get them without going through those weazels.

If recruiting in its current form was controlled by legislation, then we would still see the jobs and still get selected for them, but we would all get paid more. Sometimes a lot more. Also, there would be much better feedback for expertise. People worth $250 per hour would get that money.

Rely on the recruiting industry to scream about any attempts to control them through legislation.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Actually, you DO understand. But I just wanted to add that one point.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Several years ago I went to two job interviews at a certain well-known company in London. The interviewers liked me.

I was going to get a job offer, but the interviewers found out their director made a deal with one agency that bound them to only get software developers through them in return to a discount. The deal was made either just after my first interview or at about the same time so the interviewers didn't know about it.

So I didn't get the job in the end, despite the time and expense of going to two interviews just because I didn't go through that agency the director made a deal with.

I also applied direct to one investment bank in London. I got a letter back from them saying their passed my CV (resume) to the agency that does all recruitment for them. I never heard anything back. A few months later the agency the bank passed my CV to phoned me in connection with another job. I phoned the agency back only to get an obnoxious man laughing at me for being unemployed. At the time I had just lost my job at a company mainly funded by venture capital. Obviously nothing went further.

It seems to be getting common that you can no longer apply directly to an investment bank in London. If you try Human Resources will just bounce your CV to their preferred agency.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


>> What they do is gain control of the jobs, so people like us can't get them without going through those weazels.
>> If recruiting in its current form was controlled by legislation,

WFT are you talking about? The clients - the hiring companies - GIVE this power to the recruiters. The hiring companies delegate selection of candidates to the recruiters. Savage posted an account that pretty much sums it up. Not just "evil recruiters" but also "companies that use evil recruiters".

Why do companies do this? See my reasons above. Companies *like* to use recruiters.

I'm not saying that I am have the unified field theory on this stuff, but I think that the rationales I posted match what we candidates deal with pretty closely.

Bored Bystander
Thursday, March 11, 2004

I was recently hired at a company that I used to work for.  Long story, but anyway, the result was the *I* found the job, which was going to be a contract to hire setup, and the company /required/ that I go through an agency.  But what was I going to do?  Refuse and not get the job?  Sure, the company paid the recruiter a fee even though I did the legwork of finding the position but I'm sure they have their reasons.

In the end I was rehired as a full-time regular employee and everything worked out well.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Bored, OK. It's certainly true that employers benefit from what recruiters do, which is one reason the practice survives, even though workers derive no benefit from it and are actually harmed.

What I meant was that the reason we often have to go through recruiters is that recruiters spend all day looking for jobs or possible jobs, then advertising them or calling workers and offering those jobs.

The busy work of the recruiters means employers don't advertise the jobs directly. Thus it denies many contract workers the opportunity to negotiate directly with the employer.

As you say, employers love this because it lets them escape their responsilibilities. Recruiters love it because it lets them keep a lot of the money. Workers get screwed by it.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Blank, I believe we agree. It's a twisted symbiotic relationship.

Companies prefer the distance from candidates and they're willing to pay for it.

Bored Bystander
Friday, March 12, 2004

As an update, yes, living expenses in Seattle are high.  I was in Poulsbo getting 12/hr and as I said, that only lasted a few months before I moved elsewhere.  When I was working in Seattle, I was commuting from Bremerton, which has considerably less living expenses.  Plus, at that time, I was living with my brother, so it wasn't really an issue (free rent).

RN offered me 50k, and I could talk them up to 55k, but nothing more (of course it had benefits).  If I was to be working in Seattle at a full time job, that isn't near enough to be as comfortable as I wanted to be.  Which is why I didn't take it.

The job I took offers a high salary, great bonuses, but no medical/retirement at all.  However, I still live on the other side of the water (kitsap peninsula).  It's not far from seattle, but due to the shape of the land and the roads, it takes about an hour and a half to drive there (not during rush hour, that stretches it to 2-2.5 hours).  So, living expenses here aren't so high - I live in a 3 br/2200sqft house in a really nice neighborhood and the rent is 1200/month.  In Seattle, this place would rent for well over 2500.  Now I'm in the process of buying a house (much smaller than the one I live in now!).

I'm not doing an advertisement, and the reason I posted the names of the companies is because when threads like this show up, it seems like people are trying to hide stuff (well, company X was the main one and company Y was the staffing agency, etc.).  I like to be open and honest.

Monday, March 15, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home